Monday, 27 August 2012


Last Exile screenshot, copyright Gonzo
Here's an idea for a game I've had for a while. It started partly with me wondering whether I could find a different take on a specialized, party-based system. Many MMOs have the standard roles of healer, tank, dps, and so on. Equally, there are some party-based shooters - Team Fortress springs most strongly to mind. What else could we have?

It also started with me thinking about the anime Last Exile, in which ponderous airships do battle in a fog shrouded sky.

The game revolves around a team of players who have an airship, in which they can explore a giant, sky-based world. This might be an MMO, or just a co-operative game for a small group of people. Flying through the sky, the ship encounters various opponents - another airship, a squad of little fighter ships, sky dragons - and the players control the ship's offence and defence as a team.

Each player has a role: One player is at the helm, and controls the (perhaps rather ungainly) ship in three dimensions. One or two other players are at the big guns - think of the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars. They can swivel round and fire powerful rounds at the enemies. Other players may scramble to the little fighter ships and launch out to try and hit vulnerable points on the enemy mother-ship whilst themselves being engaged by enemy fighters. Another player handles positioning and re-positioning shields against incoming contacts and repairs damage after it is done.

There is one more role, which is where I started with this idea. In Last Exile, the world is perpetually shrouded in clouds and the combat is quite akin to submarine warfare - attempting to locate the enemies without giving away your position. In the anime, they have a person in the ship's bridge who listen's through headphones to microphones dotted around the ship's hull. It is their job to attempt to locate enemy ships. I toyed for awhile at the idea of an entirely audio-based game (and it may come back!) but what I really liked was the idea of a radar operator on the team - someone who plays no direct active role, but is vital in feeding information to the rest of the team.

Last Exile screenshot, copyright Gonzo
So in the airship game I imagine them being able to see further, and rapidly zip their view around the whole ship. Their HUD would highlight things like lasers charging up to fire on the players, or incoming torpedoes. They would be able to zoom in and spot weak points and direct the rest of the team towards them. By identifying armour types or incoming projectiles, they can give the big gun operators time to change out to different munitions. And yes, in any stealth situations, they would be attempting to pick up the opposing enemy.

The roles could be RPG like - you start off unspecialised and able to jump between roles, but gradually your character becomes the best at big guns - or it could be more skill-based, in that you can all do everything, and who is assigned to the roles is just based on who is actually better at the skills involved. In might be fun to be able to switch roles frequently - even in the heat of battle.

One more thing: I would love to have a huge range in size of enemies. From individual fighters smaller than the airship, all the way up to massive sky dragons hundreds of times bigger that you have to fight almost Shadow of the Colossus style.


  1. Just read a fantasy book about airships, pretty sure I told you about it "Retribution Falls". Doesn't focus entirely on them but remind me to lend it to you next time I come round.

    Sounds like a cool game idea, could even make it more claustrophobic than most games by making it first person (maybe except for the communications guy). So you actually have to run around the ship and then interface with a particular control panel (hud)

  2. scratch that the communications guy is first person too its just that when you interact with a console it can full screen or something. But what I mean is the engineer might have to run from one end of the ship to another to access a different maintenance console....hmm would it get dull running through the same scenery

  3. I did think of giving the players very limited visibility - doing everything actually from the point of view of a member of the crew. However, I thought that then you are throwing away the opportunity to make the game a lot more fun with exciting visuals. This was the same reason that I didn't expand the audio-only idea into a whole game - humans enjoy seeing things (although occasional fog-bound regions are a definite possibility).

    Instead, the idea I had was to make the various gun emplacements and shield points be on tracks that wrap around the ship's hull in 3D. So your point of view is not the whole ship, nor the inside of the bridge, but whatever your avatar can see from where their emplacement currently is. The emplacements' speed of movement would be something that could be upgraded, presumably. This means that players get to see what is going on, but their point of view is still limited - a particular direction, and perhaps only through the sights of their gun.

    Whereas the communications office would have a much wider angle of vision and be able to look around the whole ship very quickly.

    (And I haven't read Retribution Falls, but I'll give it a go if you recommend!)

  4. ah ok that makes sense I do like shiny things (and normal things rather than darkness (well most of the time, darkness is nice mmmmm))

    I'll bring over Retribution Falls next time I come around